Victoria Tourism Week Blog Series – What Does Tourism Mean to You? Chris Buckingham
My pathway into the industry was a little unconventional. My partner and I had successfully made the move from the city to the country. We were raising a young family on 40 acres of rolling green hills on the edge of the Latrobe Valley and had established a successful small business.
As an enthusiastic community leader, I knew that tourism was an important industry for the region, but was frustrated by the lack of confidence and sense of disunity.
In 2006 the Gippsland Local Government Network and Tourism Victoria advertised an executive role for someone to lead the Gippsland Tourism Industry out of the wilderness. Having stood on the sidelines and observed the dysfunction I realised that the job was the perfect opportunity to make a meaningful contribution to the region’s development. To the surprise of many, I applied and got the role. I was appointed as a regional expert with an interest in tourism, rather than the other way around.
The contract was for two and a half years. This seemed like a lifetime for someone used to consulting. I made it very clear from the outset that I would not be seeking a renewal of my contract. The job would be done in the time frame specified.
Between 2006 and 2008 the Gippsland tourism industry survived and thrived through bush-fires, floods and rising petrol prices. There was co-operation and positive leadership across the region and most importantly a shared vision. The industry took responsibility for its own destiny and supported the formation of a new entity. Destination Gippsland Ltd has since been used as the basis for establishment of Regional Tourism Boards across Victoria.
Towards the end of my contract with Gippsland Tourism I realised that it was time to find alternative employment – I had done the job that was asked of me (and possibly a little more). The role at Destination Melbourne was advertised – I applied and was successful. My friends and colleagues in Gippsland had mixed feelings, together we had set a cracking pace and turned the region around. Visitation and yield had grown significantly after a decade of decline and there was a strong sense of shared achievement.
I was also torn, I gone into tourism for love of Gippsland. I had learnt to appreciate the entrepreneurial spirit and resilience of the tourism industry. When push came to shove, I had to look deep inside myself to justify the switch to Melbourne. At the time it felt like a transfer of loyalties. Four years down the track, there is no doubt that I made the right decision.
On reflection I am intensely grateful for the faith shown in me by my colleagues and peers in the industry. I love the passion and enthusiasm in the industry. We know how to have a good time, but we also celebrate hard work and getting results. Tourism in Victoria is relatively new success story. We have come a very long way in the last 20 years but there is still plenty of room for growth.
Tourism appeals to the adventurous and creative side of people. When people ask me what I do, I love sharing stories about working at Destination Melbourne, the amazing team I work with and the character and depth of the industry in Melbourne and Victoria. We really are a great industry and have much to celebrate.